by Martin Dukes
With the dust beginning to settle, I’m surveying my little publishing empire, seeing what has worked and hasn’t worked since January 2022. As a refresher on the timeline of my new releases this year:
What a relief to have all of this frantic effort behind me! Now I can focus on making pretty promotional graphics at Canva to post on social media. I can try to remember to upload new videos to my somewhat neglected YouTube channel. Most importantly, I can start planning a new book.
At this natural pausing point, it behooves me to pause and consider whether releasing three new books or editions in less than six months might have been rushing things a little. If this frantic schedule has left my head spinning, I fear it has also confused my readers.
Barely had I begun begging for reviews for Waterspell Book 4: The Witch before I was begging equally earnestly for reviews for The Complete Series boxed set. Some readers, I suspect, got muddled: They didn’t fully grasp that Book 4 is a separate publication from The Complete Series. And thus, they didn’t realize that each publication needs to be reviewed separately. Although Amazon correctly shows The Complete Series (the boxed set) as being one part of the Waterspell series, reviews for each individual book in that series are not immediately visible to shoppers who are looking at any single title in the collection. That is to say: Amazon treats each book (and edition) individually, which creates (in me) a need for readers to take the time to post individual reviews for every book and every edition. A big ask.
Indeed, that’s a lot to ask of even the most ardent fan. All of my asking—first for the individual Book 4: The Witch, then for the boxed ebook set, and now for the culminating audiobook—has befuddled even me. I’ve no doubt that I’ve raised confusion in the minds of many readers. They (and I) would have benefited from a slower pace of new releases in 2022.
Nevertheless, rushed though it was, I’m delighted to have all of the publishing frenzy done and dusted. The new titles and new editions are out there, readers are finding them, and new reviews are appearing. The six-month sprint is over. Now I settle into the marathon of ongoing, nearly continuous book promotion.
In May, I ranked the promotions I’d used, according to their effectiveness. With another month of experience behind me now, I’m revising two of my earlier estimations. Both of my giveaways—Goodreads and Reader Views—have improved their grades from C to B-minus.
I hope this doesn’t sound whiny. I’m truly grateful for every review and every star. Readers are busy. I get that. Writing reviews can be hard. I get that, too: I suck at writing reviews. Some of the reviews my books have received have filled me with awe, they’re so insightful and so beautifully written. Me? About all I can ever think to write about a book is: “I liked it.” Too many mandatory book reports in my school days ruined me for writing book reviews, I fear. But every author will value a simple “I liked it” as much as they value a detailed, four-paragraph analysis.
All reviews count. Every review matters.
To sum up: Marketing is hard, it’s expensive, and it’s time-consuming. To ensure that I’m spending my promotional dollars effectively and using my time wisely, I must pause occasionally and analyze how I’m meeting, or not meeting, my goals. At this point in my writing life, my goals are to get more reviews. At present, reviews are more important than sales. Without reviews, books (and audiobooks) won’t sell. First comes the writing/publishing, then the reviews, and THEN the sales.
If you’re a reader who is inclined to help me out with a new review (or two, or five), I’ll be eternally grateful. 💙 Here are the direct links to post reviews at Amazon:
These links go to Goodreads:
Also, if you’d like to review the new audiobook edition, the following retailers will allow you to leave a review without having bought the audiobook there:
When I first looked into NetGalley (“We Help Books Succeed”) I thought it was beyond reach because of the budget-busting expense. But then I learned about these things called “NetGalley co-ops,” which are group ventures that bring the cost down considerably. Going through a co-op (I am using Victory Editing), a writer can put a book on NetGalley for $50 for one month and start sending out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to all sorts of industry professionals, including booksellers and librarians.
My listing for Waterspell: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) is scheduled to run through April 29. In just the first two days of it being on NetGalley, I’ve received requests from more than 40 interested readers, including several booksellers, educators, and institutional as well as school librarians. These are people who would not have known my series even existed, if not for NetGalley.
This experiment has only just begun. Proof of its success (or failure) will lie in how many reviews my boxed set gets, and the quality of those reviews. At this early stage, however, I’m thinking that NetGalley, accessed via a co-op, is a good investment. At the very least, I’m getting exposure in a much larger arena than Bookstagram and Facebook—and my cover art for The Complete Series is getting all thumbs-up so far! Not a single negative vote has appeared yet, which validates my choice of a traditional two-dimensional cover instead of the 3-D “boxed set” graphics that many writers are using (to their detriment, in my opinion, since those 3-D images hide the pretty cover art and make the books’ boring spines prominent).
Another useful aspect of a NetGalley listing is the space it provides for a Marketing Plan. Forced to actually think about it, I came up with this:
The magic number of reviews is 50. That’s what I’m hoping for: a total of 50 reviews at Amazon for The Complete Series.
Past experience with Goodreads Giveaways suggests that only a fraction of the 100 individuals who won Kindle copies of the boxed set will actually post a review. I may be lucky to get 10 reviews from that giveaway.
Which means I’m pinning most of my hopes on the NetGalley reviewers. I’m appealing to you, you lovely librarians and booksellers: help me out with plentiful reviews. They don’t all have to be 5-star (though a girl can hope and dream, and extend oodles of humble gratitude to everyone who is so kind and generous).
First, let’s define it: A portal fantasy is a story about a character who gets transported (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not) into a fantastic or alternate world. They pass through a portal of some kind (a wardrobe? a tunnel? an interdimensional hole?) and find themselves in a reality that’s different from the world they left behind.
“As anyone who reads science fiction and fantasy can tell you, life is full of doors … appearing unexpectedly, leading to unexpected places. Other worlds, other times. Narnia. An alien planet. The Bronze Age.” James Davis Nicoll
During December, you’re invited to explore a couple of dozen portals and doorways, via “Passing Through Portals,” a month-long promotion sponsored by StoryOrigin and 20 or so participating authors, myself among them.
Enjoy your otherworldly travels!
The ManyBooks library is featuring Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock today. In anticipation of the 2022 release of Book 4, the series-starter remains free in all ebook formats. If you’ve been planning to pick up a copy, all of the quick-links to all of the booksellers are here:
Happy November (and early Christmas shopping)! The book people at Reader Views are giving away more than 30 books this month, including 3 print copies of my Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. (Pictured dead center, under the word “Give.”) To win, enter at https://www.readerviews.com/book-giveaway/ (scroll down to the bottom of that page, to the red banner where it says “Enter the Book Giveaway”).
Today I made Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock free at every bookseller that will let me: B&N, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords. Amazon is resisting going lower than 99 cents, and I can’t figure out how to “tell them about a lower price.” I thought there would be a button or something to click on the book’s Amazon page, but I’m not seeing it. Maybe Amazon’s zealousness about not being undersold will soon work to drop the Kindle price to free. Google Books also seems slow to respond to my price drop; I’ll keep checking back until the Google page shows it for free.*
*9/21/21 Update: Amazon and Google have caught up. The Book 1 ebook is now free in ALL ebook formats. Price-matching triumphs again. 😀
Most of the rest of today, I’ve spent making Instagram posts to get the word out about a free ebook. I’m not quite ready to post either of these yet, preferring to feature a few more Reader Reviews first, but these graphics are ready to go when the time seems right:
I’ve also reached out to some book reviewers with whom I’ve connected on Instagram. I have review copies (print and ebook) ready to send out in exchange for honest reviews. (Fantasy fans, you need merely ask, and you shall receive.)
The Book 4 manuscript has gone out to a trusted beta reader who is herself an author. I know that I (and the book) will greatly benefit from her feedback. She’s showing me the great kindness of reading the entire original trilogy to refresh her memory of the backstory before diving into Book 4.
Now it’s quitting time for today, and my neck is stiff from too many hours at the computer. I’ll need to learn to pace myself as the clock counts down to December 18, 2021, the first day of pre-orders, and then to March 18, 2022, the Book 4 release day. I’m trying to figure out when and how to do a Cover Reveal in there somewhere.
Which reminds me: I must also see to a new paperback cover for Book 4. To do that, I’ll need to determine how many pages the book will occupy in print. No point doing that, though, until I hear from my beta reader. Almost certainly her comments will lead to a final round of edits.
It’s going to be a busy Fall and Spring. I’m ready. I have a plan and I’m working it.